California Prisons Must Downsize, But How Will It Happen?


As financially battered California enacts huge budget cuts, it has no choice but to downsize its sprawling system of 33 prisons, which consumes 10 percent of the state budget and swallows more taxpayer dollars than higher education — a fact that, if public opinion surveys are accurate, Californians abhor, reports A single prison bed costs taxpayers $44,500 a year.

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to weigh in on the overcrowding problem by deciding whether to uphold, strike down, or modify a lower-court order that the inmate population must be cut by more than 40,000. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift many inmates to counties, but with funding for the plan uncertain, there is discussion of leaning more heavily on spending reductions to balance the budget — cuts that could speed prisoner releases and decimate what remains of inmate rehabilitation programs.

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